House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Constituency Statements

COVID-19: Western Sydney

10:21 am

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

Western Sydney was at the centre of the New South Wales lockdown. We were subjected to some of the harshest regulations in New South Wales and, indeed, the nation. Our small businesses closed their doors. Our workers, particularly in construction and other authorised industries, had to comply with complex rules that workers in the eastern suburbs were not subject to. On top of this, we were denied a mass vaccination hub in my electorate of Greenway. Many residents had to travel significant distances, in very trying and worrying circumstances, to get vaccinated. In spite of all this, we did the right thing. My electorate went from having one of the highest number of COVID cases to being the most vaccinated electorate in the entire country. Just imagine how long the Liberals would have kept Western Sydney in lockdown if we had not achieved such high levels of vaccination. Just imagine how much additional damage the Liberals would have done to small businesses who were forced to close.

Adding insult to injury, we are now just beginning to learn that, throughout this difficult ordeal, the people of Western Sydney were treated differently and misled by the Liberals. Just this week, media reports revealed that Dr Kerry Chant urged the New South Wales Liberal government not to treat Western Sydney any differently from the rest of Greater Sydney. Yet, despite this, the Liberals chose to target the harshest restrictions on Western Sydney, imposing them in a manner that was inconsistent with the health advice. In a further insult, it has also been revealed that the $5 billion so-called Western Sydney COVID projects fund promised by the New South Wales Liberals in September simply does not exist. Instead, the promised funds from the privatisation of WestConnex are being used to pay off debt racked up by the Liberals. The question remains: why does this New South Wales Liberal government feel like they can get away with misleading Western Sydney residents time and time again? This is not costless. It has been reported that the areas subject to the harshest lockdowns are experiencing the highest rates of joblessness, including many areas in Western Sydney.

Now that the lockdown is over, the resilient small businesses of Western Sydney are gaining momentum and things are beginning to feel normal again. But our people won't forget that the Liberals were not upfront with them throughout the lockdown. Western Sydney expects its politicians to keep their promises and be held accountable for the decisions they make, and it has every right to expect this during a pandemic. I thank the people of Western Sydney, and, in particular, the people of Greenway, for their intelligence and consistent desire to do the right thing by their community. It's clear we can't trust the Liberals with taxpayers' money or trust their ability to make decent decisions or even keep their word. That's why we need an Albanese Labor government to build back an even stronger Western Sydney. If anyone can come out of this pandemic even stronger, it is the good people of Western Sydney.